John McCallum says Mexican visa could be ‘reimposed’ if refugee claims spike

Canada's Immigration Minister John McCallum speaks in the House of Commons in Ottawa
Canada’s Immigration Minister John McCallum speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada October 31, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

Canada is prepared to reinstate a visa requirement for Mexican travellers if the number of refugee claims jumps too high, says Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister John McCallum.

The visa lift is set to kick in Dec. 1. McCallum said the federal government was aware of a possible spike in asylum-seekers long before Donald Trump was elected president in the U.S.

“There would come a point where a visa could be reimposed,” he said but would not specify what number of claims might trigger that. “Canada retains its sovereignty on this issue. There comes a point where it would become unsustainable, but we are hoping that point will not arrive.”

CBC News has learned officials at IRCC and other departments have held high-level meetings to discuss a potential flood of Mexican asylum-seekers due to both the visa lift and the result of the U.S. election.

Benefit ‘outweighed’ risk

Trump campaigned on promises to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and to swiftly deport undocumented workers and illegal residents.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the plan to lift the visa requirement during a visit by Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto on June 28. During that meeting, Mexico announced it would fully reopen its market to Canadian beef in October.

A senior immigration official said Tuesday that a review was carried out in the run-up to that announcement and a number of risks were identified. But he declined to provide details or recommendations because it was “advice to the minister.”

Testifying to the immigration and citizenship committee by video from Mexico City, Olivier Jacques, IRCC’s area director for Latin America, acknowledged that more Mexicans could arrive from the U.S., and others directly from Mexico, due to changes.

Jacques said various criteria are reviewed to assess a country’s “readiness” for a visa lift. In Mexico’s case, those risks were measured against Canada’s “unique relationship” with the country, including geographic proximity and the close trade relationship within NAFTA.

“At this point, the assessment of the government is that the benefit related to a visa lift outweighed any identified risk we have with these migrants,” he said.

Trade, tourism boost

During the daily question period Tuesday, Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel pointed to that testimony and asked why the Liberals “blatantly” ignored the red flags in a rush to lift the visa requirement.

But McCallum said there are benefits associated with the visa lift, including increased trade and tourism.

“We are very happy to welcome more Mexican tourists to this country and to accept the jobs that go along with that.”

McCallum reiterated that Canada made the agreement with Mexico in June, before Trump’s presidential win.

“We went into partnership with the Mexican government to minimize those risks, so obviously we were aware of them from the beginning,” he said.

Under the previous Conservative government of Stephen Harper, Canada imposed the visa requirement due to a huge rise in refugee claims that were subsequently rejected for being invalid.

The number of Mexican claims referred to the Immigration and Refugee Board was climbing dramatically until it peaked at 9,511 in 2009. After the visa requirement was imposed, it dropped to 1,349, then continued to shrink to just 120 in 2015. Between January and June this year, there were only 60 cases, according to the most recent figures available.

IRCC Issues Public Statement on Improvements to Express Entry


Canada’s immigration system may be set for further changes

he Express Entry immigration system will undergo important changes that will come into effect later this week on November 19, but that might not be the end of adjustments to be made to the system.

Earlier today, November 14, the department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) issued a press release in which it outlined the changes to be made in the short term.

As CICNews reported last week, these changes include: the awarding of points for certain job offers made to workers in Canada who do not have a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), additional points for candidates with a Canadian education, and an extension on the validity of Invitations to Apply (ITAs) for permanent residence. (To learn about these changes in more detail, see our previous article on the subject of imminent changes to the Express Entry Comprehensive Ranking System.)

Interestingly, IRCC’s press release also states that the reforms ‘are part of a number of improvements the Government is making on a continual basis to bring changes for a more fair and responsive immigration system that will address emerging needs and ensure long-term economic growth for the middle class.’

As a consequence, it may well be the case that the changes to be implemented on November 19 are the first in a series of possible changes that may be made over time. For example, the Liberal government has previously said that it would consider the awarding of points to candidates who have prior connections to Canada, such as having a sibling in Canada as a citizen or permanent resident.

At this time, IRCC has not brought in modifications with respect to awarding points having a sibling in Canada. However, that does not necessarily mean that such a change may not take place in the future. Today’s press release certainly leaves scope for such a change, or other changes, to be made in the future.

Being proactive

As the government’s statement demonstrates, Canada’s immigration system is constantly changing. In addition, it is not only the federal government that is in a position to make important changes — the provincial governments also do so through the Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs).

Enhanced PNP categories that are aligned with the Express Entry system open and/or change on an ongoing basis, offering Express Entry candidates an opportunity to submit an application to a PNP and potentially be awarded 600 CRS points. Candidates should note that an enhanced nomination certificate is now the most important factor under the CRS, as a job offer is now worth either 200 or 50 points, depending on the position (to learn more about this change, click here).

The fact that stakeholders are now presented with a federal system (Express Entry) that is undergoing changes, as well as a range of PNP options that have also proven to change over time, highlights the importance for candidates to be proactive and engaged with the system at both the federal and provincial levels.

Speaking of the improvements to Express Entry that have been outlined, Canada’s Immigration Minister said that “We have committed to doing more to attract highly skilled immigrants to come to Canada and become permanent residents, because this is important to build our economy and strengthen our society. I am confident that the changes to Express Entry will be one of the many positive outcomes of the changes we will be bringing to our immigration system.”

What candidates can do to prepare

With only a few days left until the changes that have been outlined are brought into force, it is important for candidates in the pool — as well as other individuals thinking of immigrating to Canada through Express Entry — to understand how this may benefit them and their profile,” says Attorney David Cohen.

“Candidates should also note that IRCC, as the department itself states, is in a position to make changes to the system on a continual basis. Therefore, candidates who stay up to date and maintain a fully updated Express Entry profile, as well as stay abreast of all PNP options, put themselves in the best possible position to immigrate to Canada successfully. On this basis, I would encourage anybody who is thinking of entering the Express Entry pool to do so as soon as possible.”

The new and improved CRS Calculator   crs-calculator-2-2

Since the changes to the Comprehensive Ranking System were announced last Thursday, November 10, many thousands of people around the world have successfully been able to gauge their CRS points total using the CRS Calculator, which has been updated to reflect the imminent changes to the system.

To find out if you are eligible to immigrate to Canada permanently, fill out a free online assessment form.

Canadian officials preparing for potential flood of Mexican migrants after Trump wins presidency


The federal government is preparing for a potential surge in Mexican migrants coming to Canada after Donald Trump’s election victory, CBC News has learned.

Sources confirm high level meetings took place this week with officials at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and in other departments.

The news comes as Canada prepares to loosen rules for Mexicans to enter the country by lifting a visa requirement on Dec. 1. That restriction has been in place since 2009.

Talks on a plan to cope with a possible spike in asylum-seekers have been ongoing for some time, but were accelerated this week after Trump’s surprise win.

Trump campaigned on promises to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and to swiftly deport undocumented workers and illegal residents.

Lawyer predicts ‘significant impact’

Toronto-based immigration lawyer Lorne Waldman expects an increase in refugee claims from Mexicans once the visa requirement is lifted. He also predicts a “significant impact” from Trump’s election.

“The government was very concerned about the potential for a large number of new claims coming from Mexico, and that’s why they hesitated for so long before announcing that they were going to remove the visa,” he said.

“And that announcement was made before anyone knew that Donald Trump, with his very different immigration policies from those of the current administration, won the election.”

But Waldman cautioned it’s too early to tell exactly how the situation may unfold, saying it will depend on whether Trump follows through on his campaign pledges.

When Trump first launched his presidential bid in June 2015, he took sharp aim at Mexico, suggesting the country was unleashing criminals in to the country.

“They’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing their problems,” he said. “They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists and some I assume are good people, but I speak to border guards and they tell us what we are getting.”

In August last year, he released an eight-page policy paper on immigration that outlined plans to build a multi-billion-dollar wall along the Mexican border, but force Mexico to pay for it. He also vowed to detain and deport undocumented migrants and triple the number of U.S. immigration officers.

And just this September, he reiterated his hard-line commitment to remove illegal migrants en masse.

“There will be no amnesty,” Trump said at an Arizona rally. “Our message to the world will be this: You cannot obtain legal status or become a citizen of the United States by illegally entering our country.”

Potential abuse flagged

The possible Trump effect is on top of what some have flagged as a potential for immigration system abuse with the lifting of the visa requirement.

Conservative Immigration critic Michelle Rempel said the Stephen Harper government imposed the restriction in 2009 after ballooning numbers of bogus refugee claims from Mexico.

She accused the Liberals of making an “arbitrary” decision to lift the restriction without doing a formal study of the potential impact, or establishing new measures to prevent abuse.

“You don’t impose a visa on a nation that’s close to us in terms of trade unless there’s a serious, discernible problem. And there was,” she said.

If there is suddenly a dramatic rise in asylum claims, that will “give pause”  for the American government and for Canadians, she said.

Once in Canada, refugee claimants are entitled to a suite of benefits, including health care, until a decision is rendered in their case.

Longstanding issue

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the plan to lift the requirement during a visit by Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto on June 28. During that meeting, Mexico announced it would fully reopen its market to Canadian beef in October.

A senior official in the office of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister John McCallum confirmed the government is sticking with the Dec. 1 date to lift the visa.

“Our officials are working with Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) and Mexican officials to lay the groundwork for the visa lift, including measures to identify and deter irregular migration. And we’ll continue to monitor migration patterns post-lift,” the official said.

CBSA said a potential spike in migrants is speculative at this time.

“It is business as usual at our designated ports of entry, this includes processing any refugee claimants,” said spokeswoman Esme Bailey. “The CBSA processes over 90 million travellers a year and routinely monitors its operations to ensure proper resources.”

Asylum claims way down

The number of Mexican claims referred to the Immigration and Refugee Board was climbing dramatically until it peaked at 9,511 in 2009. After the visa requirement was imposed, it dropped to 1,349, then continued to shrink to only 120 in 2015. Between January and June this year, there were only 60 cases, according to the most recent figures available.

Government officials had suggested the visa requirement could be reinstated if the number of asylum claims from Mexico reaches 3,500 in any given year. But a news release announcing the policy did not mention any conditions attached to the change.

Vancouver-based immigration lawyer Richard Kurland called that cap a “close the barn door after the horse has bolted” policy. He said the government should carefully track weekly intake and “flip the switch” if it exceeds, for example, 100 cases.

“It is foolish to know claims will exceed 3,500 in a year, and do nothing during the year,” he said. “We have the technology to be more nimble.”

Biggest-Ever Express Entry Draw


Canadian Immigration News

International Graduates Granted Reprieve after Refusal of Post-Graduation Work Permit Applications  

Canadian Immigration newsA group of former international students whose applications for Post-Graduation Work Permits (PGWPs) were refused are now able to re-submit their applications. Canada’s Minister of Immigration, John McCallum, has established a public policy to reconsider applications for three-year open work permits from certain graduates.

A PGWP is a Canadian open work permit targeted towards international graduates from eligible programs at recognized institutions in Canada. The permit allows the holder to work for any employer anywhere in Canada, and may be issued for up to three years.

This new public policy means that international graduates who meet certain conditions may apply again for a three-year open work permit and restoration of Temporary Resident status, in addition to having the related fees waived. Foreign nationals may be eligible for consideration if:

  • They were refused a PGWP between September 1, 2014 and March 15, 2016;
  • The reason for the refusal of the application was because the applicant completed the majority of the coursework by distance learning; and
  • The entirety of the applicant’s program of study, including transfer credits, was not considered before the application was refused on the grounds that the majority of coursework was by distance learning.

Eligible foreign nationals may apply from within Canada or from outside Canada. The fees associated with restoration of temporary resident status, work permit application, and open work permit holder applications are waived — these fees together usually come to a total of $455 CAD. In addition, the public policy waives the requirement to apply for a restoration of status within 90 days of the expiration of status. Consequently, eligible graduates who are in Canada without status may still apply.

Applications under this public policy must be made by March 17, 2017. Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has committed to processing complete, eligible applications within 40 days.


n 2015, a group of students from Niagara College, Ontario, saw their applications for PGWPs refused because, according to the immigration officers examining the applications, the study programs were largely comprised of distance learning courses. While the immigration regulations state that a graduate is not eligible for a PGWP if he or she “participate[s] in a distance learning program either from abroad or from within Canada,” this condition is not explained further.

In December 2015, a judge ordered a judicial review of an application submitted by one of the affected graduates, which had been refused because five out of the six courses he took at Niagara College were deemed to be distance learning. However, as a student, the applicant had also taken courses at another college, and it appeared that the immigration officer had not taken these courses into consideration. The court ruled that all courses, including transferred credits, ought to be considered in the assessment of an applicant’s eligibility for a PGWP.

A group of these students filed a class-action lawsuit against Niagara College in the summer of 2015, alleging that the college misrepresented its general arts and science transfer program. They claim the college assured students that graduates from this program would be eligible for the PGWP, and that the college does not offer distance learning. However, numerous applications were denied on the grounds that distance learning courses were not considered eligible under the conditions of the PGWP regulations. No further developments in the lawsuit have been reported since the summer of 2015.